Last Sunday there was an on-air tribute at WABC-TV for Gil Noble, the legendary and stricken host of “Like It Is.” Bill Cosby, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Les Payne, Bill McCreary, Betty Dopson, Councilman Charles Barron and Noble’s daughter Lisa were among those appearing in the studio. Their reflections on Noble were intertwined with film clips from the show’s vast and precious archives.
This tribute was part of an agreement with the station’s manager, Dave Davis, that the tribute stand apart from the launch of a new show to replace “Like It Is,” a title that belongs to Noble.
Several participants and a number of viewers have expressed their disappointment with the tribute, and no faults were more egregious than the failure to include anyone who had previously worked with Noble; the absence of footage of international leaders, especially Jamaican great Michael Manley, a favorite of Noble’s; and no mention of Elombe Brath, who, for many years, was a mainstay on the show and helped facilitate the appearance of many significant African and African-American dignitaries and freedom fighters.
There were complaints, too, that a segment including Barron had been excised with the claim that technical difficulties had marred his remarks-an unacceptable excuse for many community activists.
For members of CEMOTAP, including Dr. James McIntosh and Dopson, co-chairs of the organization, these omissions and the deletion were a “harbinger of bad things ahead.”
A subsequent meeting with Davis that included Barron, Dopson, Jeffries and McIntosh was basically fruitless, as Davis remained either intransigent or indifferent to ideas put forth by the delegation. Chief among their demands was the consideration of Imhotep Gary Byrd as a possible host or co-host.
Davis said he had never heard of Byrd and said he wanted “to use someone from the WABC newsroom, and has thus far refused to even interview Byrd to find out what Byrd would bring to the show,” a press statement from CEMOTAP asserted. “Davis seems braced for a war with the Black community. He became offended when the group refused to accept his assertion that he was different from Tom Kane, the last WABC station manager with whom the community had to struggle.”
An other demand from the community is that they be involved in any decisions-the naming of the show, the host or co-host or the co-producers-as the new show goes forward.
Meanwhile, CEMOTAP is requesting that people call Davis at (212) 456-7000, stating: “Tell him to stop stonewalling the community. Remember, you are talking to a man who has never even heard of Imhotep Gary Byrd. Also come hear CEMOTAP’s call to action and report to the community on Saturday, October 22 at 2 p.m. at CEMOTAP Center, 135-05 Rockaway Boulevard, South Ozone Park, Queens, New York. Community leaders and leaders of the delegation will be present.”